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October 23, 2016 Social Media Companies

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DUBLIN AFRO CARNIVAL
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‘Little Africa’; Parnell Street, food and Afro-Irish Identity.

Keith Spiller, Department of Geography University College Cork, College Road Cork Ireland.

Food and African Identity in Ireland

The main proponent for the shops existence on Parnell Street is the sale of African food. The commodity that food is and its consumption are a prerequisite to life and living of all nationalities. Food can prove to be a very distinctive identifier of culture and place. Crang states nation are associated with culinary identifiers “ the French as frogs, the Germans as Krauts, the English as Rosbif……”(Crang,1995,p6). The link to national identity through food is inherent to the African community in Ireland. The availability of authentic African food in Dublin provides a reference point to the identity in an emerging multicultural society. In a comparison, the Irish pub has played a central position in Irish diasporic identity, i.e. the Irish pub in a foreign country is the first port of call for the recently arrived emigrant, a place to reinforce your Irishness and gain information on the receiving culture. For the African identity in Ireland food and meeting around ‘Little Africa’ are what the pint of Guinness and the pub are to the Irish emigrant.

African food and the meal are a reconstitution of African cooking, the atmosphere and cuisine are replicated from the collective social cohesion of consuming a meal in Africa. The fact that authentic African food is eaten in Ireland leads to the identity incorporating its tradition into a new milieu and solidifies its presence before what bell hooks would describe as resistance. The cohesion centres on food for the African community and with food that is consistent with their antecedents, as the effect would not take place through the consumption of bacon and cabbage, for example. The availability of African food is imperative for the African identity in its transition into the Irish culinary and cultural mainstream.

Authentic African food helps in the construction of a disaporic identity in Ireland, but also inadvertently enhances the flow of multiculturalism. The shops are part of a network of culture through the fact African food products are required in Ireland, a commodity circuit is established to facilitate the demands and desire for an availability of African food in Ireland. The food products integrate the networking of ports and cities, to satisfy the demand of the consumers for African food; this firmly places the shops of ‘Little Africa’ into the commodity circuit. Areas like ‘Little Africa’ manifestly establish commodity circuits between distinctly different culinary environments, their presence and their circuits build spaces through which multiculturalism can flow. The flow often expands to the situation where the mainstream of the receiving nation totally incorporates the flow. As exemplified by the success of the number and range of food companies specializing in authentic food on supermarket shelves in Ireland, that were often originally only available in ethnic shops. So where does this locate ‘Little Africa’, will Ireland become a fully multicultural society and develop a site of plurality through African culture and cuisine?

Conclusion

The African shops and their food may be the litmus test that will indicate the speed of the transformation of urban Dublin society into a position of multiculturalism. Food can often prove the simplest way to actively access another culture. The African shops provide authentic African foods to Dublin and their commodity circuits have established the link. There is no doubt an embryonic culinary plurality exists, but the question is will it grow? What was once the hegemonic state of Ireland is now slowly evaporating, Irish attitudes through travel, education and the media are now more accepting of the ‘other’. But not too accepting, as the racial tensions in Parnell Street would indicate. The space of ‘Little Africa’ does however offer a marginal site in the process of urban Irish cultural plurality. I cannot predict whether the integration into Irish society will be total, yet I do predict this site of multiculturalism is something important and will be further explored by Irish geographers in the future.

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